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Pence casts tiebreaking Senate procedural vote on funding for abortion providers

Vice President Pence on Thursday cast a tie-breaking procedural vote that allowed the Senate to move forward with an effort to nix an Obama-era rule that blocked states from defunding healthcare providers for political reasons. 

Pence appeared on the floor after a procedural vote stalled in a 50-50 tie, casting the 51st vote in favor.

Republican Sens. Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiModerates' 0B infrastructure bill is a tough sell with Democrats The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Tax March - CDC in limbo on J&J vax verdict; Rep. Brady retiring Trump mocks Murkowski, Cheney election chances MORE (Alaska) and Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsModerates' 0B infrastructure bill is a tough sell with Democrats OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Senate confirms Mallory to lead White House environment council | US emissions dropped 1.7 percent in 2019 | Interior further delays Trump rule that would make drillers pay less to feds Anti-Asian hate crimes bill overcomes first Senate hurdle MORE (Maine) joined all Democrats in voting against ending debate on the bill. 

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Sen. Johnny IsaksonJohnny IsaksonFive big takeaways on Georgia's new election law Warnock: 'Almost impossible to overstate' importance of voting rights legislation Top Georgia Republican says he won't run for Senate MORE (R-Ga.), who has been recovering from two back surgeries and hasn't voted since Feb. 17, returned to the Senate to cast a vote, creating the tie that led to Pence’s vote. 

Leadership held the vote open for roughly an hour as they rounded up enough votes to move forward. A final vote on getting rid of the Obama-era rule could happen as early as Thursday afternoon. 

Republicans are using the Congressional Review Act (CRA) to roll back some Obama-era regulations with only a simple majority vote. 

Former President Obama's rule required that state and local governments distribute federal Title X funding for services related to contraception, fertility, pregnancy care and cervical cancer screenings to health providers, regardless of whether they also preform abortions. 

Democrats blasted Republicans for using Pence to break a tie on a procedural vote. 

As Republicans waited for Isakson to arrive, Senate Minority Leader Chuck SchumerChuck SchumerPew poll: 50 percent approve of Democrats in Congress Former state Rep. Vernon Jones launches challenge to Kemp in Georgia Schumer lays groundwork for future filibuster reform MORE's office sent a note to reporters with the subject line: "What's going on with this Senate vote? The VP needs to break the tie & harm women's health." 

Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii) criticized Pence’s tiebreaking vote, tweeting: “Just in case we didn't already have enough men making decisions on women's health.”

Sen. Patty MurrayPatricia (Patty) Lynn MurrayHouse passes bill to combat gender pay gap Schumer kicks into reelection mode Democrats target Trump methane rule with Congressional Review Act MORE (D-Wash.)—who sat on the Senate floor and waited for Pence to arrive—pledged that Democrats would spend Thursday afternoon speaking out against the GOP-effort. 

“They're pushing this resolution so hard today to the point where they bring the vice president to break a tie, it's safe to bet that Republicans are going to try to attach riders to take away Planned Parenthood funding in the spending bill for the rest of the year,” said Murray—the No. 3 Senate Democrat.

Lawmakers have until April 28 to fund the government. House Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanOn The Money: Senate confirms Gensler to lead SEC | Senate GOP to face off over earmarks next week | Top Republican on House tax panel to retire Trump faces test of power with early endorsements Lobbying world MORE (R-Wis.) signaled this week that House Republicans wouldn't try to tie a Planned Parenthood fight to the spending bill. 

Republicans argue that getting rid of the regulation gives states more flexibility and push's back against Obama-era regulatory overreach. 

Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellPew poll: 50 percent approve of Democrats in Congress Pelosi on power in DC: 'You have to seize it' Progressives put Democrats on defense MORE (R-Ky.) argued that the Obama move hurt “local communities.”

“It substituted Washington's judgment for the needs of real people,” he said ahead of the vote. “This regulation is an unnecessary restriction on states that know their residents a lot better than the federal government.”

Pence last month cast the tiebreaking vote to confirm Betsy DeVos to lead the Education Department. Murkowski and Collins also joined all Democrats in opposing her nomination, necessitating the tiebreaker.

Prior to that, the last time a vice president broke a tie in the Senate was 2008, when then-Vice President Dick Cheney voted on tax legislation.